Phil Barnes, MSC Canada Executive Director
Phil Barnes is Executive Director of MSC Canada. He and his wife, Marilyn, served in Zimbabwe and Northern Canada prior to coming to MSC and currently serves as an elder at Stone Ridge Bible Chapel in Hamilton, Ontario. They have three married daughters, and five grandchildren.
Don’t you just wish for a burning bush sometimes?
You know, undeniably miraculous, clearly from God, with simple, clear directions you can just go out and do.
Just get on with it in the knowledge and assurance that you are doing exactly what the Lord wants you to do. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
When there aren’t burning bushes handy, we tend to fill the void.
Sometimes with legalistic structures in which we can operate safely without needing to hear God’s voice. Or we outsource our discernment to a Christian guru who has heard the Lord, and prescribes the only acceptable way for every conceivable aspect of Christian living. Or even worse, we get caught up with the latest phenomenon who claims to have discovered the “Getting-God-to-do-what-you-want-Him-to” secret, which, when you think about it, is really “How to get God to hear and respond to the call of Me” instead of the other way around.
So, if we discard these imitations, and don’t receive a clear, miraculous call, how do we know the call of God for our lives?
Have you ever struggled with just not being sure if the Spirit of God is really moving you or if you just have indigestion? Sometimes we just live in this grey fog of ‘not being sure of God’s call’ because we can feel less responsible to actually respond. It allows us to excuse our reluctance and resistance as ‘confusion’.
Perhaps we should think about how people in the Bible responded to their clear call of God.
Since it was God doing the calling, we may assume that the person was the best possible choice for the job. Surely, they must have all a) believed they were perfectly suited and qualified for what God was calling them to do and b) been thrilled and excited to be selected for this Divine privilege.
However, Moses, Jonah, Isaiah and Jeremiah come to mind as a few who did not feel either capable or eager to ‘get on with it’ even though they had miraculous, undeniable clear calls of God.
Seems the clarity of the call was not the real issue.
So, what is the real issue?
…while others were waiting for the burning bush, they were learning to listen for the call of God every day
How about this… What if the newest app for your phone was the Call of God app. That would be cool, I guess. It would be pretty exciting to download it, open it up and find out God’s call on my life.
But what if there was then the option to select the ‘weekly’ function, or the ‘daily’ function, giving me His latest direction? Would I select those options?
Or what if you could select ‘push notifications’ on the lock screen, with a special ringtone, informing me that the Lord has a direction He wants me to take right now? Sounds pretty invasive, pretty life-dominating. And, after all, I have heard Christians ought not to let their phones dominate their lives. Better not select that one…
Bear with me here, especially those of you who don’t like this kind of analogy. What if this Call of God app only had the ‘daily’ and ‘push notifications’ features? No yearly or lifetime notifications given – no turning it on for the big decisions only, then quickly off for the rest of the time – if the only way to get to the lifetime Call of God was through listening and responding daily… hmmm.
I often am approached by folks wanting help determining if the Lord is calling them to fulltime mission work – especially overseas, life-altering mission work. They want to know the big call of God for their life. But we sometimes get these things the wrong way around.
Those who routinely hear the Lord telling them to help around the house a little more, to bite their tongue, to speak up, to help a friend, to help an enemy, to meet with believers even though they feel like staying home, to take better care of themselves, to stay behind afterward and help, to fill that gap in the children’s programme, to unload the dishwasher, to prepare for worship – these are the ones who find themselves someday in a Middle East country, or working with inner city youth, or making an impact in their neighbourhood, or reaching a new tribe, or serving in a hundred different ways wherever they are, but all the time knowing they are called of God, because while others were waiting for the burning bush, they were learning to listen for the call of God every day, and to respond to the push notifications vibrating in their spirits, their hearts, their minds.
“For as many that are led by the Spirit of God, these are the Sons of God.” (Rom 8:11)